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Norovirus isn't the only communicable disease hanging around Helena.

In the past month, Lewis and Clark County Public Health has confirmed six cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory infection that can affect children and adults.

Whooping cough is caused by a bacterial infection that causes people to cough and "whoop" when they take deep breaths after the coughing fit ends. It's most dangerous for infants, but can infect almost anyone who is unvaccinated or not immune.

The cases have mostly been in school-age children, according to Lewis and Clark County Public Health Communications Manager Gayle Shirley, but one adult was also affected by the disease.

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"It's not anything like what Missoula is experiencing," Shirley said. Missoula has had 52 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the past two weeks, and Lewis and Clark County is trying to avoid that situation. 

"We're identifying contacts right now," Shirley said of their search for possible disease vectors. Whooping cough isn't widespread at this point, but if it spreads, Shirley said the county would be providing more information on how to deal with the disease.

"The main recommendation is if you have a cough that lasts more than two weeks you should see your doctor," Shirley said.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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